Retinol is a highly efficacious skincare ingredient and has unique benefits. With proper use, retinol effectively speeds the skin cell turnover cycle which prompts a variety of flow-on effects. Starting retinol use can be helpful for most skin types including oily skin, dry skin, mature skin and mild acne-prone skin.
Plenty of environmental, genetic and behavioural factors can impact the appearance of skin at different points in life and call for a supportive skincare regime. Introducing retinol to your routine can help to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes, discolouration and enlarged pores – so it’s no wonder that it’s known as a multi-tasker in the skincare world. We’ve compiled this guide to simplify learning how to use retinol for the first time.
HOW DOES RETINOL WORK?
Retinol is a comparatively gentle, accessible derivative of vitamin A that is available without a prescription. Retinol molecules penetrate the skin to promote skin cell turnover, encourage collagen production and neutralise free radicals. Visible changes to skin take time to become apparent, but with consistent use, retinol works to make skin appear plumper, firmer, smoother and brighter.
This function can help improve many skin concerns including oiliness, rough skin texture, pigmentation and signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles. With so much to offer, how long does retinol take to work? The general rule of thumb is that it takes 3 months to see improvement in skin after starting retinol – provided regular and correct usage is followed.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START USING RETINOL?
It’s never too early or too late to start using retinol. Here are some common life stages people commence using retinol, and how retinol benefits can help with skin concerns at each age:
- In your 20s: many people start using retinol for beginners in their twenties as a preventative skincare measure, or to minimise “dynamic wrinkles” – skin creases that only appear during facial expressions.
- In your 30s, 40s and beyond: retinol can be used to target already-apparent signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation at any age.
4 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS STARTING RETINOL
Unlike prescribed forms of vitamin A like retinoic acid, La Roche-Posay retinol products can be implemented into skincare routines easily. There are a few important application points to note when unpacking how to start using retinol. Following these will help to reduce the chance of sensitising your skin, and ensure your skin is adequately supported while retinol does its work.
Those starting retinol for the first time may experience certain “side effects” like dryness, visible redness and blemishes at first. While these usually pass with time and consistent use, the likelihood of unwanted effects occurring can be reduced by taking a gradual, gentle approach. Always consult a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about your skin’s needs.
TIP #1: PATCH TEST AND INTRODUCE GRADUALLY
To patch test your new retinol product, apply a small amount to the neck or inner arm. Wait 24 hours to watch for signs of sensitivity before commencing retinol use on the face.
After patch testing, start slowly and build up to using retinol multiple times per week. As retinol is a potent ingredient that deeply penetrates skin, it should first be applied once per week to allow skin to acclimate. After a few weeks of gradually increased usage, most skin types will tolerate as often as daily retinol application. If you’re concerned about how much retinol to use – always follow package directions. For a serum, 3-4 drops will be enough.
TIP #2: APPLY RETINOL AT NIGHT AND USE SPF IN THE MORNING
Sun protection is a key consideration in how to use retinol for the first time, as retinol is known to increase photosensitivity. For this reason, retinol products should always be used at night.
In the morning, ensure broad spectrum SPF is the final step of your skincare routine. We suggest opting for an SPF 50+ in a formulation that works in harmony with your skin type. The lightweight, non-greasy formulation of Anthelios Tinted Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ is suitable for even sensitive skin and is anti-eye stinging.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR USE.
Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.
TIP #3: ADD HYDRATION WITH SERUMS AND MOISTURISER
For already-dry and mature skin types in particular, retinol can reduce moisture in skin and leave complexions feeling tight and dry. This tends to be limited in the early stages of use – over time and with consistency, retinol use can help to give dry skin a plumper, more luminous appearance.
Wondering “𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘐 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘰𝘭 𝘢𝘵 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵?” To retain hydration while skin is acclimating, layer retinol with nourishing serums and moisturisers. Apply retinol first to freshly cleansed, dry skin, then allow to skin in before layering hydrating skincare steps.
TIP #4: LAYER POTENT INGREDIENTS WITH CAUTION
Avoid using retinol directly alongside certain ingredients. When layered directly with retinol, exfoliating acids like AHA and BHA can overwhelm skin, leading to dryness and tight sensations.
Additionally, vitamin C and retinol should be applied at opposing times of day, with vitamin C used in the morning and retinol in the evening. When paired together, these ingredients have complementary benefits – but they are too strong to apply to skin at once. For a full breakdown, read our guide on how to layer serums and ingredients.
HOW TO CHOOSE A RETINOL FOR BEGINNERS BASED ON SKIN TYPE
When applying retinol for beginners, the key is to start slow. Correct application of this ingredient can help achieve luminous, clarified and even skin, but its potency requires careful and considered use. For those learning how to use retinol for beginners, the best technique and skincare regime is informed by skin type – oily, dry or mild acne-prone. For a simplified understanding of how best to integrate this ingredient, we’ve broken it down by skin type below.
RETINOL FOR OILY SKIN
Excessive oiliness is owed mostly to genetics and hormones, but the right skincare and lifestyle approaches can help to mitigate shininess and sebum production. Retinol works for oily skin by helping to regulate excess sebum secretion and keep skin balanced. The best skincare routine for retinol for beginners with oily skin includes these steps:
Step 1: To ensure that moisture levels remain balanced, cleanse skin first with pH supportive Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser. Pat dry.
Step 2: A pure retinol infused serum like Retinol B3 Anti-Ageing Serum can be used next. Allow to absorb.
Step 3: Layer with a hydrating moisturiser for oily skin types, like Effaclar H Hydrating Moisturiser. This formula is non-comedogenic, meaning that it rebuilds moisture without blocking pores.
RETINOL FOR DRY SKIN
A main feature of dry skin is the accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface, which can cause skin texture to look dull and rough. For dry skin, retinol encourages skin cell turnover which helps to reveal refreshed skin. Here’s an effective retinol night routine for beginners with dry skin:
Step 1: Prepare your complexion with a cleanser formulated for dry skin, like Toleriane Caring Wash Hydrating Cleanser.
Step 3: Increase moisture in skin by applying a deeply hydrating serum next. Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum permeates skin deeply, imparting hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water.
Step 4: Follow with a protective and hydrating prebiotic cream to ensure skin remains plump and moisturised. Toleriane Sensitive Riche Prebiotic Cream includes shea butter and glycerin for 48-hour hydration.
RETINOL FOR MILD ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Blemishes can sometimes result in dark spots. For mild acne-prone skin, starting retinol helps to gradually fade pigmentation and reduce the appearance of post-blemish marks. Here’s a retinol night routine for beginners with blemish-prone skin:
Step 1: Cleanse away excess oil and residue with Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser, suitable for mild acne-prone skin.
Step 2: Use a sensitive-suitable clay mask as a preparatory step. Effaclar Anti-Acne Purifying Clay Mask gently purifies skin whilst hydrating with glycerin.
Step 3: To rebalance skin and visibly reduce breakouts and marks, Retinol B3 Anti-Ageing Serum can be applied in the evening.
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